Oklahoma City Thunder 2012-13 Schedule: Monthly Breakdown and W-L Predictions
The good news is, the Thunder will have a full offseason with a real training camp in order to prepare for next season. Without the lockout, the schedule will be less compact, and there will be more time to rest and recover between games without any back-to-back-to-backs.
Though it will only be five months between seasons for OKC, it surely will feel like much longer for a young team that came within arm's reach of being crowned world champions. However, they must look forward with a short memory of the pain from last year, and focus on the upcoming challenge of a full 82-game season.
Let's take a look at each month coming up for the Thunder and break down the best matchups and biggest obstacles in the Thunder's road to win a championship.
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-Thursday, November 1 @ San Antonio Spurs
-Friday, November 2 vs. Portland Trailblazers
-Sunday, November 4 vs. Atlanta Hawks
-Tuesday, November 6 vs. Toronto Raptors
-Thursday, November 8 @ Chicago Bulls
-Friday, November 9 vs. Detroit Pistons
-Sunday, November 11 vs Cleveland Cavaliers
-Monday, November 12 @ Detroit Pistons
-Wednesday, November 14 vs. Memphis Grizzlies
-Friday, November 16 @ New Orleans Hornets
-Sunday, November 18 vs. Golden State Warriors
-Wednesday, November 21 vs. Los Angeles Clippers
-Friday, November 23 @ Boston Celtics
-Saturday, November 24 @ Philadelphia 76ers
-Monday, November 26 vs. Charlotte Bobcats
-Wednesday, November 28 vs. Houston Rockets
-Friday, November 30 vs. Utah Jazz
Key November Games
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Thursday, November 1 @ San Antonio Spurs
OKC will open the season on the road against the seemingly ageless Spurs in a rematch of last year's Western Conference Finals. There's no doubt the Spurs want to use this game as a statement to prove they can still keep up with the young guns, leaving the Thunder faced with the tough task of beating a really good home-court team.
Wednesday, November 21 vs. Los Angeles Clippers
Two of the most exciting teams in the West will face off early into the season and you can expect plenty of highlight plays from both squads. Blake Griffin and the Clippers will be coming into this game looking to get acquainted with a possible playoff foe next season.
Friday, November 23 @ Boston Celtics
Oklahoma City will take a trip to the East coast to play their former teammate Jeff Green and the Celtics. Rondo vs. Westbrook is always a treat to watch and with Boston having a good offseason, this matchup will be as enticing as ever.
Wednesday, November 28 vs. Houston Rockets
The Thunder didn't get to experience any of the Linsanity from last season and this will be their first real time playing against the new-and-improved Jeremy Lin. The Rockets made a lot of moves this offseason and have some promising young talent, but that talent will be put to the test by OKC's proven roster.
November W-L Prediction: 13-4
Wins: Trail Blazers, Hawks, Raptors, Bulls, Pistons, Cavaliers, Pistons, Hornets, Celtics, 76ers, Bobcats, Rockets, Jazz
Losses: Spurs, Grizzlies, Warriors, Clippers
Preview and Predictions for November
Best One-on-One Matchup of November
Russell Westbrook and the Thunder going against the Boston Celtics will provide one of the most entertaining matchups in the early part of the season. Watching the aggressive and speedy Westbrook go against an elite point guard like Rondo will be a nice back and forth battle. Both Rondo and Westbrook are emotional and physical players who will have no problem butting heads in this matchup.
Thunder's Best-Case Scenario for November
Though they open on the road, the Thunder still have a nice 11 home games out of their 17 games for the month, with most of those games coming against non-playoff teams from last year.
There are some mid-level teams like the Hawks, Trail Blazers, and Jazz who could give the Thunder a little trouble, but OKC should be able to keep them down and win the games that they are favored in. Some possible chances for upsets come with the up-and-coming Warriors and maybe a road game against the revitalized Hornets, but this month should be business as usual for Oklahoma City.
Thunder's Worst-Case Scenario for November
Worst-case scenario for the Thunder to open the season is if they come out sluggish and fatigued. This could happen since four of the five starters for OKC are participating in the Olympic games and haven't had much of a relaxing offseason to recover from a long and strenuous season.
Though the Thunder will be playing some decent to poor competition for most of the month, the energy of these young teams could be enough to catch Oklahoma City off-guard in some games.
At the absolute worst, the Thunder would find themselves coming out of the first month with only 10 wins, sitting at a very average 10-7.
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-Saturday, December 1 @ New Orleans Hornets
-Tuesday, December 4 @ Brooklyn Nets
-Friday, December 7 vs. Los Angeles Lakers
-Sunday, December 9 vs. Indiana Pacers
-Wednesday, December 12 vs. New Orleans Hornets
-Friday, December 14 vs. Sacramento Kings
-Monday, December 17 vs. San Antonio Spurs
-Wednesday, December 19 @ Atlanta Hawks
-Thursday, December 20 @ Minnesota Timberwolves
-Tuesday, December 25 @ Miami Heat
-Thursday, December 27 vs. Dallas Mavericks
-Saturday, December 29 vs. Houston Rockets
-Monday, December 31st vs. Phoenix Suns
Key December Games
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Friday, December 7 vs. Los Angeles Lakers
Though OKC took care of business against the Lake Show in last year's playoffs, LA has added the presence of Steve Nash to the mix, which could be a difference-maker against the Thunder. Antawn Jamison could also be a game-changer off the bench for LA, who is looking to make a rise back into contention.
Sunday, December 9 vs. Indiana Pacers
Indiana gave the eventual-NBA Champion Miami Heat plenty of trouble in the postseason last year, proving they can hang around with the best of the best. Now with some nice offseason acquisitions in Ian Mahimi and D.J. Augustin, the Pacers are looking to take the next step by facing the top dog in the West.
Thursday, December 20 @ Minnesota Timberwolves
Kevin Love and his crew will host OKC in this interesting contest of two young teams. Though the T'Wolves may be without Ricky Rubio, who is recovering from a torn ACL, but with or without him, watching Brandon Roy coming out of retirement and playing against an old division foe may be worth the price of admission.
Tuesday, December 25 @ Miami Heat
Possibly the most anticipated game of the holiday season will be this rematch of the 2012 NBA Finals. These teams only played five games against each other in the postseason last year, but I'm sure plenty of fans were wishing for the full seven with how exciting the matchups were. Expect plenty of physicality and aggressiveness in this contest as the Thunder look for a little bit of revenge.
December W-L Prediction: 9-4
Wins: Hornets, Pacers, Hornets, Kings, Spurs, Hawks, Timberwolves, Rockets, Suns
Losses: Nets, Lakers, Heat, Mavericks
Previews and Predictions for December
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Best One-on-One Matchup of December
This has to go to the NBA Finals rematch between Kevin Durant and LeBron James. Last year's top two MVP candidates are arguably the best two basketball players in the world and to have them going face-to-face on a court will be a treat. This could be this generation's great basketball rivalry if these two continue to see each other in the Finals.
Thunder's Best-Case Scenario for December
This month has some tough games for OKC, but they should be able to take their momentum from a good start in November into December.
The biggest challenges will be the Lakers and Heat, but the Thunder should benefit from playing eight out of their 13 games at home. Oklahoma City will have to deal with Miami on the road, but get to play Los Angeles and San Antonio at home, where they took care of both of them easily in last season's playoffs.
If they continue to play well from a hot November start, the Thunder could see 10 or 11 wins out of this month.
Thunder's Worst-Case Scenario for December
The downside to the Thunder's game against Miami is the four day layoff before that contest, which could mean some rust for OKC in one of their most important games of the season so far. Should Oklahoma City come up short against Miami, it could bring down the team demeanor for their last homestand of 2012 against teams that have a feasible chance against them (Houston and Dallas).
If the Thunder stumble against the Lakers and Miami, that could lead to a few extra losses that could have been prevented, and a slightly worse record of 8-5 for the month.
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-Wednesday, January 2 vs. Brooklyn Nets
-Friday, January 4 vs. Philadelphia 76ers
-Sunday, January 6 @ Toronto Raptors
-Monday, January 7 @ Washington Wizards
-Wednesday, January 9 vs. Minnesota Timberwolves
-Friday, January 11 @ Los Angeles Lakers
-Sunday, January 13 @ Portland Trail Blazers
-Monday, January 14 @ Phoenix Suns
-Wednesday, January 16 vs. Denver Nuggets
-Friday, January 18 @ Dallas Mavericks
-Sunday, January 20 @ Denver Nuggets
-Tuesday, January 22 @ Los Angeles Clippers
-Wednesday, January 23 @ Golden State Warriors
-Friday, January 25 @ Sacramento Kings
-Sunday, January 27 @ Los Angeles Lakers
-Thursday, January 31 vs. Memphis Grizzlies
Key January Games
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Friday, January 11 and Sunday, January 27 @ Los Angeles Lakers
This month will not be easy for the Thunder, considering they will have to take two trips to Los Angeles to face the Lakers. Beating the Lakers will be a tall task this season, especially on the road. These games will definitely be a true test of Oklahoma City's mettle on the road.
Friday, January 18 @ Dallas Mavericks
Continuing with the theme of tough road games, OKC will face a Dallas team that made some nice moves in the offseason. Acquiring Darren Collison, O.J. Mayo, Elton Brand and Chris Kaman made this Mavericks team look much better than they did last season, where the Thunder swept them in the first round of the playoffs. Look for some more competitive matchups between these two during the season.
Sunday, January 20 @ Denver Nuggets
The youthful Nuggets are always a tough game and this next season should be no different. Their core is beginning to mesh nicely and they will benefit from the return of Wilson Chandler, who missed most of the end of last season with a hip injury.
January W-L Prediction: 13-3
Wins: Nets, 76ers, Raptors, Wizards, Timberwolves, Lakers, Trail Blazers, Suns, Nuggets, Clippers, Warriors, Kings, Grizzlies
Losses: Mavericks, Nuggets, Lakers
Previews and Predictions for January
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Best One-on-One Matchup of January
The fact that the Lakers are playing the Thunder twice in this month means we'll get to see how Steve Nash fares against Russell Westbrook on two separate occasions. It's two different generations of great point guards going against each other and two good offensive guards as well. Kobe and Durant will see some face time against each other too, but the real battle to watch will be in the backcourt.
Thunder's Best-Case Scenario for January
Though it will be a tough month of road games and tough opponents, the Thunder have proven they can still get it done away from "The Peake" in Oklahoma City. While they do have some good foes ahead of them in January, there are some gimme games on the road like Toronto and Washington. These games should be good confidence boosters for OKC heading into their harder games and it could lead to a nice 13 wins out of 16 games.
Thunder's Worst-Case Scenario for January
Should the script be flipped on the road for the Thunder and they find themselves overwhelmed by the travel, it could turn out to be an ugly month. The transition of having to go home for one game between road trips could prove to be costly for Oklahoma City, who have a stretch of eight days where they will play six games with only one at home.
If this happens, the Thunder could be worn out by the time they hit their harder second road trip against the Lakers, Clippers, and Mavericks, and could fail to show up against quality teams.
Worst case scenario for the Thunder in January would be going 9-7 when they should be able to win a good portion of these games.
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-Saturday, February 2 @ Cleveland Cavaliers
-Monday, February 4 vs. Dallas Mavericks
-Wednesday, February 6 vs. Golden State Warriors
-Friday, February 8 vs. Phoenix Suns
-Sunday, February 10 @ Phoenix Suns
-Tuesday, February 12 @ Utah Jazz
-Thursday, February 14 vs. Miami Heat
-Wednesday, February 20 @ Houston Rockets
-Friday, February 22 vs. Minnesota Timberwolves
-Sunday, February 24 vs. Chicago Bulls
-Wednesday, February 27 vs. New Orleans Hornets
Key February Games
Thursday, February 12 @ Utah Jazz
The Jazz sneaked into the playoffs last year and could be poised for another crack at a low-seed in the West. The Thunder, projected as a high seed, could see their first taste of a possible first-round series in the very rowdy home court atmosphere of the Jazz.
Thursday, February 14 vs. Miami Heat
Another holiday, another Heat/Thunder matchup. It may fall on Valentine's Day, but love will not be in the air between these growing rivals. Expect the Thunder fans to be extra loud as the defending champion Heat roll into OKC.
Sunday, February 24 vs. Chicago Bulls
This matchup's appeal all depends on if Derrick Rose is able to make a somewhat early return from his torn ACL and lead his Bulls team back to their contending ways. If that is the case, then this may be a potential preview of a possible NBA Finals matchup, assuming the Bulls can find their way past Miami in the postseason.
February W-L Prediction: 8-3
Wins: Cavaliers, Mavericks, Warriors, Suns, Suns, Heat, Timberwolves, Bulls
Losses: Jazz, Rockets, Hornets
Previews and Predictions for February
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Best One-on-One Matchup of February
One exciting matchup that many may not be anticipating is at the end of the month when the Thunder play against New Orleans. Rookie big man and No. 1 overall pick Anthony Davis has shown he is a defensive force in the college game and he will be facing Serge Ibaka who was second in Defensive Player of the Year voting and lead the league in blocks last year. These two stoppers will collide and it will provide some nice entertainment in the paint.
Thunder's Best-Case Scenario for February
This should be a pretty easy month for Oklahoma City, who is only playing four out of their 11 games against playoff teams. It will also be a nice change of pace from January, as the Thunder will also be at home for the majority of this month.
The competition is pretty average in February and OKC should be able to breeze past it for eight or even nine wins.
Thunder's Worst-Case Scenario for February
While the competition seems average at this point before the season, things could change and the Thunder may find themselves having trouble with young guns like the Hornets and Warriors, which will both have some scoring options that can compete with the offense of the Thunder.
If OKC doesn't take care of business, they could find themselves in a small losing streak going into their important Miami matchup, which is the last thing they want in a game they should be able to win.
Worst case for Oklahoma City here would be a poor 6-5 record, dropping some road games and maybe even some home ones.
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-Friday, March 1 @ Denver Nuggets
-Sunday, March 3 @ Los Angeles Clippers
-Tuesday, March 5 vs Los Angeles Lakers
-Thursday, March 7 @ New York Knicks
-Friday, March 8 @ Charlotte Bobcats
-Sunday, March 10 vs. Boston Celtics
-Monday, March 11 @ San Antonio Spurs
-Wednesday, March 13 vs. Utah Jazz
-Friday, March 15 vs. Orlando Magic
-Sunday, March 17 @ Dallas Mavericks
-Tuesday, March 19 vs. Denver Nuggets
-Wednesday, March 20 @ Memphis Grizzlies
-Friday, March 22 @ Orlando Magic
-Sunday, March 24 vs. Portland Trail Blazers
-Wednesday, March 27 vs. Washington Wizards
-Friday, March 29 @ Minnesota Timberwolves
-Saturday, March 30 @Milwaukee Bucks
Key March Games
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Thursday, March 7 @ New York Knicks
Olympic teammates will now be enemies in this tantalizing matchup of two explosive offenses. Harden, Westbrook and Durant won't be in the same uniform as Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler anymore and this star-studded game could prove to be a memorable classic at Madison Square Garden.
Wednesday, March 20 @ Memphis Grizzlies
The Grizzlies have been a pesky challenge for Oklahoma City in recent years, and even with the departure of O.J. Mayo, Memphis could still be a tough game for the Thunder on the road.
Sunday, March 24 @ vs. Portland Trail Blazers
Portland had a major overhaul in their roster and now have some promising young talent with Damien Lillard and Meyers Leonard. Those two rookies with LaMarcus Aldridge could form a solid core and give OKC some problems.
Saturday, March 30 @ Milwaukee Bucks
Watching two offensive guards like Brandon Jennings and Russell Westbrook go at it should be a wonderful treat for the fans and makes this potential shootout a game to watch for sure.
March W-L Prediction: 13-3
Wins: Clippers, Lakers, Knicks, Bobcats, Jazz, Magic, Mavericks, Nuggets, Grizzlies, Magic, Wizards, Timberwolves, Bucks
Losses: Nuggets, Celtics, Spurs, Trail Blazers
Previews and Predictions for March
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Best One-on-One Matchup of March
Reigning Sixth Man of the Year James Harden will have his hands full on defense when he goes against the scoring machine Monta Ellis. These two contrasting styles of scoring should make for some interesting plays during this contest. Harden has a more old-school style, with a nice lefty touch while Ellis is a great shooter who uses his speed to make up for his lack of size at his position.
Thunder's Best-Case Scenario for March
The Thunder will have five more games in March than they did in February and this month will be a mixed bag in terms of opponents. The Thunder have some work to do since they are playing plenty of quality teams, but they should be able to grind out some victories.
This is a crucial stretch in the season and Oklahoma City will surely be in overdrive by this point, since they may be jockeying for position atop the Western Conference. With motivated play and great performances from their stars, OKC could go into April with 13 of their 16 March games going in the W column.
Thunder's Worst-Case Scenario for March
Alternatively, the Thunder could hit some major speed bumps on the road, throwing them off rhythm for the entire month. There are really only a couple of opponents the Thunder should have no problem with (the Magic sans Dwight Howard and the Bobcats), but the rest will be a challenge.
If Oklahoma City doesn't step up and go into the final stretch of the season hungry and aggressive, March could be a back-breaker for seeding going into the postseason.
At worst, the Thunder could come out of this month with a disappointing 8-8 record.
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-Thursday, April 4 vs. San Antonio Spurs
-Friday, April 5 @ Indiana Pacers
-Sunday, April 7 vs. New York Knicks
-Tuesday, April 9 @ Utah Jazz
-Thursday, April 11 @ Golden State Warriors
-Friday, April 12 @ Portland Trail Blazers
-Monday, April 15 vs. Sacramento Kings
-Wednesday, April 17 vs. Milwaukee Bucks
Key April Games
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Thursday, April 4 vs. San Antonio Spurs
This could be a deciding matchup in the seeding for top teams in the Western Conference. The Spurs may still be fighting for a top spot at this point in the season and the Thunder may be looking to get their first top-seed berth in the playoffs since moving to Oklahoma City.
Sunday, April 11 @ Golden State Warriors
Don't sleep on the Warriors' playoff chances this year. This could be a preview for an upcoming playoff series and at the very least should be an entertaining contest in Oakland.
Monday, April 15 vs. Sacramento Kings
Depending where the Thunder are seeded, they may be resting their stars. However, if there is still some jockeying in the Western Conference standings, the Thunders starters may still have a challenge against a non-playoff Kings team with nothing to lose.
April W-L Prediction: 5-3
Wins: Spurs, Pacers, Knicks, Warriors, Bucks
Losses: Jazz, Trail Blazers, Kings
Previews and Predictions for April
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Best One-on-One Matchup of April
A second matchup of Kevin Durant vs. Carmelo Anthony should be a great showcase of two of the best scorers in the NBA. These two can flat out put the ball in the basket and they will be lighting up the scoreboards in this one.
Depending where the Knicks are in the playoff hunt, we may even see an extra-motivated Melo looking to make a statement against one of the best in the game in this contest.
Thunder's Best-Case Scenario for April
The best case for the Thunder here is having the top-seed locked up after a few victories in the first week and being able to coast through the rest of the month.
Even if it gets them some losses, giving the starters some rest and recovery before a postseason run could be very beneficial for OKC. Even with some losses, a 5-3 record would be respectable here for a top-seeded team in the Western Conference.
Thunder's Worst-Case Scenario for April
Worst case scenario here would be the Thunder battling for the top seed going into the last week and having to play their starters.
Even if they played their starters, it's always tough to beat teams with a nothing-to-lose mentality towards the end of the season, and OKC will be seeing two possible instances of that with games against Sacramento and Milwaukee.
If the Thunder have to play all games at full strength, they can still end up with a poor 4-4 record in the worst-case scenario.
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Final Record: 61-21
Expectations are certainly high for the Oklahoma City Thunder and there's good reason to believe they may fulfill and even exceed them.
The teams around them in the West have been improving, but the Thunder still have their young core in place and have added some help too. Taking on Hasheem Thabeet as a project player and signing undrafted rookie Hollis Thompson could be some sleeper offseason moves that could pay dividends later on.
Durant and Westbrook are also really hitting their stride and should continue to blossom into one of the best one-two punches in the NBA.
The most important point to note for OKC coming into next season is the pain from falling just short of a championship and how that will drive them to change that result this season. Just look what happened when Miami lost to the Mavericks in the Finals in 2011. That could very well be the same case for a hungry Thunder team this season, looking to take the league by force.
Hopes are high in Oklahoma City and all eyes are on how the young Thunder team will respond to a successful season.
Now we will have to wait and see if the Thunder can continue their strong play or if the West and some improved teams will cost them another shot at a championship.